For kids, parental divorce often creates a desire to escape from it. Our brains think, As soon as I’m old enough, I’m out of here. Though research shows many become prodigals, I believe many more are closet prodigals.
The Prodigal Son story in Luke 15:11-32 describes a young man who demands and receives his father’s inheritance—while the father was alive. He left home and spent it on wine, women, and song. Unfortunately, a lot of us can relate to running away to things that were supposed to make us happy, but didn’t.
However, a number of us, particularly those who follow God, didn’t run to a world of sin. We’re too “respectable” or fearful for that. Instead, we “ran away” to college, marriage, ministry, a career, or whatever it took to get out of the house.
The problem is, like the prodigal son, sooner or later closet prodigals come to their senses. Suddenly they realize “we’re ‘feeding pigs’” (v. 15). Then emptiness and regret move in.
*I’m really not in love with my spouse; I just wanted to get away from home.
*Sure, I have “PhD” behind my name, but did I need to spend ten years in college?
*With this regimen, my body is in the best shape ever, but my soul feels barren.
Have you had thoughts like these? Be careful! This is when Satan feeds our discontent and remorse with lies.
*It was an escape. You never really loved him, so divorce is ok.
*You should quit your job and do what you really want to do.
*You’re going to the gym for the wrong reasons, so why bother?
But rather than acting rashly—again—closet prodigals should do what the real one did, “I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you“(v.18).
When we realize that instead of trusting God we ran away, the first step is to confess this to God. Tell Him what you did, why, and how you feel about it. 1 Peter 5:7 says, “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.”
The next step is to seek God (and the counsel of godly people) to help you see His purpose for your path this far. God doesn’t make mistakes, we do. Thankfully, He has an amazing knack for taking our mess-ups and producing blessings from them. The Apostle Paul wrote, “I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.”1
Paul had messed up in his life, but with a focus on serving Jesus, his past stayed there. God offers us the same opportunity by calling you and me to come out of the closet, confess our sins, and allow God to use us for His glory going forward.